Myers-Briggs In-Depth: Energizing: Introversion vs Extraversion – Part I

by Ron Potter


This function is responsible for more misunderstandings and confusion than any of the others. At least that’s my observation.  This is why I always spend more time on understanding this function when I’m working with teams.

There are some very natural dynamics in place here that often sabotage our ability to balance this function in team meetings. Team meetings are, by definition, extraverted affairs.

“Why did we call you all together for this team meeting? To talk!”

So right off the bat, team meetings are designed for and often run by extraverts. Even if the team meeting leader or facilitator happens to have a preference for introversion, the extraverted crowd often takes over the dynamics of the meeting without even realizing it or intending to do so.

Let me start with the introverts (which we seldom do in team meetings). I often ask one question of my introverts in team meetings “How often have you left a meeting and as soon as you walk out that door right there (pointing to an exit door) do you think to yourself,

  • I wish I had thought of that.
  • Oh, now I know what Sue was getting at.
  • I wish I could have gotten a word in edgewise because I’ve really given some thought to this issue.

In one form or another every introverted thinker says “All the time.” “Every meeting.” “Often.”

Missing Half the Brain Power

Isn’t that interesting that we called a meeting, brought all of the high powered and high priced brains into the room together to solve a problem or come up with an innovative approach and yet because of the dynamics of the meeting process we let half that brain power walk out of the room without ever hearing their ideas or taking advantage of their well thought ideas. What a loss!

Introverted Energy

Why does this happen? Remember that this is our Energizing function. Our extraverts gain energy from the conversation while our introverted partners get energized by reflective thought and a moment of quiet. Because our team meetings are naturally extroverted environments, our extraverts come in with the goal to get the conversation started and keep it going (adding energy all the way) from:

  • the brainstorming (information gathering divergent stage) right though
  • the prioritizing (consolidation of ideas into a few good options convergent stage) right up to and through
  • the decision making phase.

Meanwhile, unless our Introverted thinkers have a moment to reflect and gather their thoughts and re-energize between these three phases, they:

  • lose energy
  • drift away
  • give up on getting their thoughts injected and will even dig in their heels and try to halt or delay the decision making phase if they
  • haven’t had sufficient time to get on top of their thoughts through all of the conversation.

Bringing Balance

So how do we get on top of this function and bring the balance required to get the best out of both types of functions? The easiest and most profound approach is to define and separate the phases of a meeting. All meetings in one form or another have three phases:

  1. Brainstorming, idea gathering, learning and understanding divergent phase
  2. Prioritizing – consolidation of ideas, narrowing down potential options convergent phase
  3. Deciding

Image Source: Quinn Dombrowski, Creative Commons

Let’s Keep Talking

As we stated earlier the extraverted types would prefer that we keep talking right though all three phases non-stop because that feeds their energizing needs. However, by simply separating the phases of the meeting with a brief pause for reflection and thought between each stage we allow our introverted partners to get re-energized through the process.

In coming blogs we’ll discuss many of the techniques that will help balance the functions between extraverted and introverted as well as the other functions on the Myers-Briggs chart.

Extroverted or Introverted?

Do you know if you’re extraverted or introverted? It’s not just about talking or enjoying yourself at parties. It’s about your energy. What gets your juices flowing? How do you grapple with difficult issues or problems or decisions that must be made? Do you need to engage in conversation or after the conversations do you need to withdraw and reflect, think, contemplate what was discussed?

Share with us some of your experiences from both side of this equation. What do you wish the other preference type would understand about how you get energized?

Myers-Briggs In-Depth is a blog series in which I dive into each MBTI function with more detail, providing some practical applications for creating better dynamics and better decision making. Click here to read the entire series.
Interested in an overview of each of the four Myers-Briggs functions? Click here to read the Using MBTI to Great Advantage series.

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1 comment

Energizing: Extraversion vs Introversion – Part II - Team Leadership Culture March 2, 2015 - 10:08 am

[…] part I of our discussion of Extraversion and Introversion and the misunderstandings that can occur between […]


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